The Achille Lauro was an Italian
cruise ship that was hijacked in 1985
On October 7, four armed Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. About 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers, including 11 Americans were taken hostage. Hundreds of other passengers escaped being taken hostage since they had disembarked the ship in order to visit Cairo and tour the Egyptian pyramids.
The hijackers identified themselves as members of the Palestine Liberation Front and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians that were imprisoned in Israel. If their demands were not met, they threatened to blow up the ship and kill the Americans on board. The next morning, they added the British passengers to the list of those to be killed.
On October 8, the Achille Lauro set sail for Syria where the terrorists demanded negotiations. Syria refused to permit the ship to anchor in its waters. This prompted more threats from the hijackers. Threats turned to action when on the afternoon of the 8th, they shot and killed one Leon Klinghoffer, a 69 year old Jewish - American who was confined to a wheelchair. His body was then dumped overboard, wheelchair and all.
Yasar Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), condemned the hijacking and PLO officials joined with Egyptian authorities to resolve the situation.
On October 9, on the recommendation of negotiators, the ship set sail for Port Said. It was there that the hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities in exchange for a pledge of safe passage to an undisclosed destination.
On October 10, the hijackers boarded an EgyptAir Boeing 737 along with a PLO official, several Egyptians, and members of the negotiation team. The plane took off from Cairo and was headed for Tunisia.
Then President Ronald Reagan gave his order to intercept the aircraft. F-14 Tomcat fighters located the 737 about 80 miles south of Crete. Without announcing themselves, the F-14's trailed the airliner as it sought and was subsequently denied permission to land at Tunis. The airliner also sought and was also denied permission to land in Athens. The F-14's were now flying wing to wing with the airliner.
The aircraft was ordered to land at a NATO base in Sicily and the pilot complied and the hijackers were arrested soon after.
In July of 1986, an Italian court convicted three of the four hijackers and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 to 30 years. The court also convicted 3 others in absentia for their role in masterminding the hijacking and sentenced them to life in prison. The reason for the stiffer sentences was that the court decided that the hijackers were acting in "patriotic motives" while the planners were looking for a "seflish political act" in order to weaken Arafat's leadership. The fourth hijacker was a minor who was tried and convicted separately.
Commentary - As we all know, today is the October 10, the anniversary of the interception of the 737 back in 1985. What we call "terrorists" seem to have long memories and a penchant for marking them in one way or another. Hopefully today passes without more violence than what is already being experienced in many parts of the world....